'Letting the people down': Flemish Government still trying to balance its budget

'Letting the people down': Flemish Government still trying to balance its budget
Flemish Government Ministers. Credit: Belga/Laurie Dieffembacq

On Tuesday, the Flemish Government resumed negotiations on its budget for the coming working year, after negotiations on the regional child benefit package hit a brick wall on Monday – resulting in Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon not delivering the traditional 'September declaration.'

For the first time, the Flemish Minister-President could not make a policy statement for the coming year in the Flemish Parliament (which traditionally happens on the fourth Monday of September), as the governing parties have so far been unable to reach an agreement on the budget, despite hours of negotiations.

The main issue is with the child benefit – called the Growth Package – as the Christian-Democrat CD&V party demand that those benefits (for every family with children) increase by 2% every time the index is exceeded. This year, that index has already been exceeded several times due to the rising inflation and the continuing cost-of-living crisis.

The other governing parties (the liberal Open VLD and Flemish right-wing N-VA) consider linking the Growth Package to the index too expensive a measure and want to focus specifically on families who need it most financially.

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Negotiations have resumed on Tuesday, first in separate working groups and then again with the entire Flemish government. Now, the aim is to find an agreement by Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether this deadline will be met.

In addition to the budget, however, this also leaves people and companies waiting even longer for measures from the Flemish Government to help the population deal with the high energy prices.

On Twitter, the leader of the Flemish socialist Vooruit party, Conner Rousseau, heavily criticised Jambon's lack of September declaration on Monday. "Breaking: there will be no September declaration today. Not so breaking: the Flemish Government is letting the Flemish people down."

In the meantime, poverty specialist and professor at the University of Antwerp (UAntwerp) Ive Marx said on Flemish radio that the Growth Package should indeed be index, as CD&V proposed.

"Not doing that, in my opinion, is not very credible. Letting the Growth Package melt away under the scorching sun of inflation is not a credible policy," he said on Tuesday. "Then the Growth Package, in fact, becomes a shrinking package."

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